War of words between Baltic shipyards

  • 1998-08-06
VILNIUS (BNS) - Representatives of Latvian ship repair yard Rigas Kugu Buvetava (RKB), which recently won a tender to privatize Lithuania's Klaipeda-based Vakaru Laiva Remontas (VLR), have called the latter's insistence on a background check "absurd."

On July 8, the Lithuanian administration failed to confirm the winner of the VLR privatization tender and instructed Interpol and Lithuanian law enforcement agencies to evaluate the reliability of RKB.

RKB public relations representative Arturs Mucenieks told the newspaper Respublika that "examining the legitimacy of RKB's money is absurd, since it is planned that VLR shares be acquired from a loan that RKB would receive from a consortium of Latvian banks."

"The loan is being lead-managed by the second largest Latvian bank, Latvijas Unibanka. About 30 percent of this bank's shares are in the hands of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). This means Lithuania is doubting the reliability of the EBRD," Mucenieks said.

According to him, the RKB loan is being guaranteed by the fourth largest Latvian holding group, Baltijas Holdings, to which RKB also belongs.

In Mucenieks' view, Lithuania has been provided with false information about RKB. He told the newspaper that "RKB is operating at full steam, receiving more than 90 percent of its revenues from its major activities - ship building and repair. This year the company is planning on repairing 124 ships," Mucenieks said.

"I am convinced that if we come to Lithuania, Lithuania would also construct ships," the RKB representative claimed.

Mucenieks also expressed doubts about Lithuania's legal system, legislation, and the country's desire to attract foreign investments.

The Lithuanian press has stated that the RKB chief is linked with laundering money from Russia, and has suggested that the establishment of Baltijas Holdings could be a cover for an attempt to return the Baltic fleet to Russia.